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Sex and the Expat Woman

Disclaimer: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a woman, thus whatever insights I offer are limited. I can only pass on  observations and what expat women have told me, intentionally or unintentionally. I’m also limited by not wanting to go over nine hundred words. Put differently, it is a big topic that I’m unqualified to expound upon and will not dedicate the necessary time to … so let’s begin.

Taiwan is a very rapidly changing society (see: My Parents Are Nuts and Taiwanese Reverse Culture Shock), the brisk transitions affect expat’s as well as natives. Taiwan-based expat women’s lives have evolved particularly quickly. A couple decades ago Taiwan’s expat community was almost homogeneously male. It’s not that women didn’t come, they just didn’t last. There were undoubtedly multivariate social reasons. I’m going to concentrate on psychosexual and sociosexual causes, particularly the role of horniness in high female expat turnover. [How could this possibly go wrong?]

I first became aware there was an issue at a welcoming party not long after arriving. It was your normal drunken expat sausagefest. What fascinated me was the small handful of women at the party. They were behaving in a way I’d never experienced. They got drunk in a different manner from the normal goofy female drunkenness I’d experienced in Canada. They were on what appeared like a testosterone driven hammer-fry mission. They attacked the booze like sailors on shore leave, became aggressively and rowdily drunk, sequestered themselves in the kitchen, and—for lack of a better term—began acting like men. Low-class men. They complained loudly and belligerently about their horniness, talked in graphic (and pretty humorous) detail of what they’d do to a cock—should they ever see one again—and lobbed occasional catcalls at the male partygoers. If they were men, we’d say they were being a pack of dicks.

The guys studiously avoided the kitchen, but as a stupid newbie I didn’t know. When the party needed more beer, I trundled in to get some. As soon as I walked in, I was surrounded by four drunk women who proceeded to engage in a little lite sexual harassment. The last member of the quintet came to Taiwan with her boyfriend and seemed embarrassed by the other women. My kitchen excursion climaxed when a woman from the Bronx, dressed like Leather Tuscadero, with a cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth, slowly looked me up and down through smoke-squinted eyes, as though trying to choose a satisfactory sausage from the deli platter, and asked in a throaty voice, “So? We gonna happen or what?” That was the first time I’d seen her. Theoretically, being objectified and treated like nothing more than ten inches of dangling meat should have been a giant turn on. After all, that’s the dream, right? However, it turns out the purple-headed General is a coward. I squirmed from their clutches and returned to the party and the knowing merriment of the other guys.

Those women were about a year and a half through their two year, sexless, stays in Taiwan. They were like a pack of cats in heat, rubbing up against anything that’d stay still. I now believe that’s what happens to a collective of women when the ol’ panty gerbil gets hungry and no one will feed it—they begin acting like horny men. It’s sort of beautiful—we’re all the same. The difference is that it is an unusual and uncomfortable position for women. They were used to being both the brake and accelerator in sexual liaisons back home. It must have been a genuine shock to not be able to give it away, no matter how hard they tried.

There were some cultural reasons for their sexual deprivation. First, they were daunting. If they scared me, what must Taiwanese men have felt? Beyond that, Taiwanese men have a lot of family obligations to live up to. Primarily to find a nice Taiwanese girl, get married, and have Taiwanese babies. Taiwanese women don’t have quite the same imperative since once they marry they’re out of the family, so if they have mixed kids it is not such a big deal. The other big problem was that the foreign men were all dating Taiwanese women. Only the Taiwan-based foreign models were consistently dating, below themselves admittedly, but still they had some romantic life. One solution was to arrive in Taiwan as a couple, but these couple frequently broke up when the guy noticed all the Taiwanese women. Taiwan breaking up Western couples was almost a trope.

For most people it’s impossible to live long term in a place without the hope of a satisfactory sex life. Involuntary celibacy erodes your psychological well-being. Not many women stayed here beyond two years. I believe the dearth of intimate contact was the cardinal cause of high turnover among expat women.

That’s the way it was; but I see women breaking through now. There are a growing number of mixed couples where the man is Taiwanese. Twenty years ago, seeing an AMWF couple would have stopped me in my tracks. It’s a heartwarming change. Also, there are a lot more Western couples in Taiwan, and they seem better able to stay together. Consequently there are a lot more expat women living here, and staying longer. Counterintuitively, the high rate of intermarriage between Western men and Taiwanese women is making expat society more stable and tolerable for expat females. It doesn’t fix the underlying problem, but women are no longer forced to spend their time with rutting males, who regard them as little more than background fauna. Not getting laid is terrible; concurrently watching dweeby foreign dudes score is insufferable—but nobody gets jealous of married sex.  The current situation just feels better. Expat life in Taiwan is maturing, becoming more inclusive and family friendly. It’s no longer just a pack of horny dudes on the make.